Philosophy

When science is useless: on the lack of scientific demonstration for unguided nature

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“Unguided natural processes.” If you follow Intelligent Design at all – or even just follow the yammerings of the crazier Gnu atheists – you’ve probably come across that term, or something like it in the past: the claim or idea that such and such natural processes occur utterly apart from any plan or direction. Behe talks about how his work and arguments establish that something other than “unguided natural processes” would have to have been at work to explain what we see in nature, at least based on the information we have currently. Dembski says similar, with some important caveats. On the other side of the discussion, Jerry Coyne and others insist that modern evolutionary theory is wed to the idea that the processes at work in evolutionary theory are utterly unguided and unintended. You’d likely see similar when it comes to cosmology, physics, and other scientific fields.

But even if they disagree about the power of “unguided natural processes”, all of them seem united in the agreement that at least some processes in nature can be scientifically labeled as such – so it’s fair to say they’d agree that Lenski’s lab documents the outcomes of unguided natural processes.

Which puts me in a bind, since I think each and every one of them are wrong. In fact, I think they are trivially wrong, and this post is going to be sufficient to demonstrate as much to most reasonable people.

I want to be clear exactly what I’m disputing here: the claim that science shows that this or that process or set of processes is “unguided”. That claim that historical outcomes – of evolution, of cosmology, of physics and otherwise – were/are entirely and completely the result of blind nature following no plan, no map or intention, full stop.

It’s important to note that I’m not making the claim that science shows that this guidance does, in fact, exist. My view is that science is stone cold silent on these questions by necessity – they are beyond its scope, making it incapable of affirming and denying the activity of God in nature. Or gods. Or, for that matter, programmers in a simulated universe, or demiurges, or advanced aliens, or otherwise. This has always made me the odd man out among the UD contributors, but what I’m talking about actually goes far beyond considerations of ID. When I infer design, I rely on arguments, analogies, observations, intuitions, impressions, philosophy, metaphysics and more. I may even make reference to science, empirical observations and more. Frankly, I may even think I have arguments that are compelling on this front, and should lead to a design inference (or much, much more) for people who encounter them.

But I don’t think that’s science. It’s just logic, thinking, arguments, observations and axioms. Great, respectable stuff, but science, it ain’t.

I could go on for a while about why I think this – what my approach to the demarcation problem is and more. But I’m going to keep this simple.

Someone who tells me “science shows this process was/is unguided” is making a claim. The burden of proof is on them upon the instant.

For science – as opposed to philosophy or metaphysics or intuition or otherwise – to show something, you’re going to need a hypothesis, an experiment, a result. Nowadays, most people would probably insist on the supposed gold standard of peer-reviewed research. What’s more, you’re going to need a hypothesis without obvious, glaring holes in it – if you present a hypothesis of ‘I think God will make this tennis ball I’m holding in my hand turn into a pigeon’, it’s going to be trivial to tear your experimental concept apart immediately.

So, if science were able to show that selection processes, mutation processes, even radioactive processes, etc were unguided, what I’d expect to see is the same for any other supposedly scientific claim: experiments, peer-reviewed research. And this research would have to stand up to scrutiny. Lack these things, and it doesn’t matter if the claim in question is ultimately true – whatever the reasoning process is that’s being used to arrive at this conclusion, it’s not science.

At first glance, this seems like hairsplitting. But the impact on modern thought would actually be tremendous if this were more widely recognized: it, at once, is completely sufficient to defang nearly the entire suite of evangelical atheist claims about science. It turns out that evolutionary science hasn’t so much as dented the claim that design exists in biology, because the presence or lack of design is a question science is completely incapable of answering. The same holds true for every bit of physical science you wish to reference – it applies just as much to fundamental forces of nature as it does to evolutionary claims and more. Quite a lot can be discovered about those processes, but ‘guidance’ is off the table as far as science goes.

Naturally, I think this is going to be difficult to accept on all sides. The Gnu Atheist cannot – to accept this point, because to do so is to grant an unconditional surrender on one of the most central claims of the modern evangelical atheist movement. ID proponents will have a problem with it because it calls into question, if not necessarily directly, whether design inferences are science or not. BioLogos-styled Christian Darwinists will dislike it because the evangelical atheists will be in distress at the claim, and that’s generally enough to cow them.

But it’s the clear and obvious truth of the matter. If it wasn’t, these experiments would not only exist – people would be screaming about them. There’d be an episode of Cosmos devoted to it. Instead, we get side-arguments and smuggled in conclusions. And that’s all we’ll ever get, because this is an example of question where science, on its own, becomes basically useless.

59 Replies to “When science is useless: on the lack of scientific demonstration for unguided nature

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    I want to be clear exactly what I’m disputing here: the claim that science shows that this or that process or set of processes is “unguided”.

    A favorite claim of the denizens of “The Skeptical Zone.”

    Can we offer free access to this thread?

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Can we offer free access to this thread?

    Ugh. The last thread I had devolved into cross-website potshots between that place and here, and I’m really not a fan of the swamp or the island of misfit toys they’ve built up besides. So I’d rather not.

    Besides, given what I’m claiming, I suspect if this thread takes off at all I’m not going to be lacking critics, whether ID proponents and otherwise.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    “Unguided process” is an oxymoron.

    Can we agree on that?

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    There ARE some natural processes that do seem truly unguided. Although I would argue that it is only the APPEARANCE of being unguided. Not truly unguided.

  5. 5
    nullasalus says:

    Mung,

    “Unguided process” is an oxymoron.

    Can we agree on that?

    You’d have to explain more. I’ve hopefully made it clear what I mean here – ‘unguided’ in the sense of ‘not orchestrated, foreseen, preordained, etc by a mind or personal agent’.

    I think I know what you may be saying, but if so it’s not a definition I’m aiming at.

    ppolish,

    There ARE some natural processes that do seem truly unguided. Although I would argue that it is only the APPEARANCE of being unguided. Not truly unguided.

    Good comment, so let me clarify: ‘Seemings’, appearances… on their own, those things aren’t science. If I look at a picture and I call what I see ‘pretty’, whatever that is – whatever validity my impression has – science, it ain’t.

    I’m willing to cop to the idea that some people report that, say, ‘the world looks unguided to them’. That’s great and all, but it’s just not science in and of itself.

  6. 6
    CuriousCat says:

    I agree with your claim summarized below.

    I want to be clear exactly what I’m disputing here: the claim that science shows that this or that process or set of processes is “unguided”.

    It’s important to note that I’m not making the claim that science shows that this guidance does, in fact, exist. My view is that science is stone cold silent on these questions by necessity – they are beyond its scope, making it incapable of affirming and denying the activity of God in nature.

    Nevertheless, my reasoning may be different (though I’m not sure, maybe we share exactly the same view). If we are living in a world where everything is actually guided (whether anyone belives in that or not), then how can we claim that any process is unguided since we have, in this case, never have experienced an unguided process in our lives? When we would like to give examples of unguided processes, we try to visualize “random” motions of molecules, “natural” selection, “blind” forces of nature, etc, but these processes are still based on what we have experienced in our universe. If everthing is guided in essence, then we do not know what TRULY being unguided means. When we detect design (as in ID), we refer to processes achieved by humans (mind), that is, we still refer to processes that we experience. For those processes which we do not detect design, we cannot say it is unguided, for we do not EVEN know the meaning of that word if we are already living in a guided world (which I belive). Such a claim would be justified, I think, only for an entity who visited and experienced both guided and unguided worlds, because he would know the true meaning of being unguided.

    I believe this is similar to Hume’s reasoning, but from an different angle.

    Overall, I think science should form hypotheses only for processes that we experience via suggesting repeatable (I avoid from using the term “causal, which suggests a metaphysical belief) relations and should not say anything about whether they are unguided.

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    OT:

    Could it be that sometimes we are not careful when choosing the appropriate terms or words in order to write a report or a commentary?
    Is it possible that at times, intentionally or not, we use terms or words that don’t seem to correspond to the situation we are trying to describe?

    I have done that many times. So I’m trying to overcome such problem, by learning from others, who seem to know how to write better.

    That’s a reason why I’m reading your OPs and follow-up comments in this and other linked websites. First, I’m trying to learn the actual contents, because I’m attracted by the subject (highly fascinated by some aspects of biology). But also I’m trying to study different writing styles that I encounter, so that I can apply them in my own projects.

    However, I have several disadvantages, among which I count these: slow reader (my wife and children still can’t understand why I have this problem, because they all read fast), not fluent in the language (I’m an immigrant), poor vocabulary, not a scientist, not a philosopher (though I love Windom), not a fast thinker, and on top of that, a little drowsy by the pain medicine I’ve taken after a dental surgery I had a couple of days ago 🙁

    Oh, well, enough whining and digressing.

    Here’s a link to another thread where you can see an example of the apparent abuse and overuse of certain terms or words, that sometimes make my slow reading even slower (note comments 2, 3, 4, 7).

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-by-genes/

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    But I don’t think that’s science. It’s just logic, thinking, arguments, observations and axioms. Great, respectable stuff, but science, it ain’t.

    To quote the old Budwiser beer commercial, “I LOVE YOU MAN!”

    I had similar sympathies, but a bit more moderate than your position: The Capriciousness of Intelligent Agency makes it Challenging to Call ID Science.

    I argued the “D” part of “ID” is science, and remained ambivalent on the “I” part. The “D” part is the formal demonstration of analogies to design in biology. That is science. “D” is real, but claiming “D” is caused by “I” is what is the real point of contention.

    The study of population genetics, IC, CSI, OOL, age of the universe, age of fossils, geology — that’s science. It’s relevant to the claim of design. In that sense, the large body of arguments used by IDists to support their claims is science.

    So the way I do the demarcation is not to say all of ID is non-science. I’d say the “D” part of “ID” is definitely science. When we ask about “500 fair coins heads” not being the expected outcome of chance, that is a scientific question. Asking if it an intelligent agency was involved, well…I don’t care what you label such questions or assertions. It’s reasonable enough for me to believe intelligence was involved.

    I recall once an IDist arguing with a Darwinist over the question “is ID science”, and I was mortified. The ID guy couldn’t wield his best weapons in the debate because he was getting red-herring-ed to death. I should have told him he should have been on the offensive saying, “the question is whether common descent and natural selection are the mechanism that originated certain complexities of life like the genetic code”.

    I didn’t both to see how the Darwinist responded, but a clever anti-IDist would say: “who is your designer, what experiments have you run where the designer showed up, can you predict what the designer will do, if you can’t predict anything, it’s not empirical science…”

    I keep trying to tell fellow IDists, “why make yourself vulnerable to such unsavory tactics by anti-IDists?” Nothing is gained from it. Not once have I ever thought I strengthened the promotion of the ID case by saying, “ID is science”. As much as I believe ID is real, and as much as I believe God is real and is the Author of a universe that makes science possible, I don’t insist ID and God are science.

    My position is more moderate than yours. I simply am undecided, and I don’t think in the scheme of things how we label it counts for much.

    Finally, Null, you show there is another ID supporter in addition to Mike Gene who is not quite so enthused to call ID science, that makes 3 of us in the world of ID. We’re in quite the minority.

  9. 9
    nullasalus says:

    Curiouscat,

    If we are living in a world where everything is actually guided (whether anyone belives in that or not), then how can we claim that any process is unguided since we have, in this case, never have experienced an unguided process in our lives?

    Very interesting arguments can come about from that view!

    But yes, for me what’s central here is that whole claim about ‘science shows..!’ when it does, and really, it can’t. Some people seem to think that their subjective view – ‘that doesn’t look designed/guided to me!’ – is sufficient to make their evaluation ‘science!’ if they happen to be a scientist, or even just happen to have read up on science. But the experiments, the research… that’s in thin supply, and easy to tear apart such things people mistakenly may offer on that front.

    Dionisio,

    Language is important, and that’s definitely a problem about some ID topics. (See ‘Christian Darwinist’, which at times gets applied to both Stephen Barr and Karl Giberson, even though they both have some very different views about evolution and God.)

    scordova,

    Glad you liked the post! Really, I think this post has far, far less to say about ID than it does about its opposite. I think even Dembski wrote once that ID isn’t capable of determining that such and such natural things and processes weren’t designed, and the filters ID uses only detect design, not the lack of it.

    Regarding the 500 coin flips example, I think it would depend on what you mean by ‘of chance’. If you flip 500 coins, a roughly equal distribution between heads and tails may be the expected outcome. The expected ‘unguided, intentionless’ outcome, ruling out the intention and agency of God/gods/etc? Whatever that is, it’s not science. (In fact maybe the entire example isn’t science. Isn’t that getting into ‘that’s math, not science’ concerns?)

  10. 10
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal @8:

    And yet Sal, presumably, accepts that forensic science is science, that SETI is a scientific endeavor, and so forth.

    That fact that some anti-Id’er is throwing out red herrings does not in the least — at least for me — persuade me to change my tune about whether ID is science. Furthermore, whether ID is science is important for many people. If an ID opponent says to me “ID isn’t science” and I reply, “You’re right; but not everything that is true or important in life is science,” then I’ve already lost the argument for 99% of ID critics. Lots of anti-ID folks are more than happy to have ID discussed in religion or philosophy courses — you know, along with those other wacko religious ideas — just so long as ID isn’t considered science. As long as it isn’t science nobody has to take it seriously.

    Finally, allowing materialists to define “science” as that which excludes any consideration of intelligent activity is not helpful. That is a faulty definition of science and they should be called on the carpet for pushing their philosophical agenda, and strongly so.

    So, yes, there may be other debating tactics that are more helpful in a particular circumstance with a particular critic than arguing the “ID is science” issue. But debating tactics are a separate matter from the underlying substance. To jettison the idea of ID being science because it is a contentious issue, because some anti-ID folks won’t buy it, because it requires some careful discussion and nuance to get the point across, because we had to watch an ID adherent painfully struggle in a debate is, IMHO, very much the wrong approach.

    ID is science every bit as much as any other science that draws inferences based on physical artifacts and our knowledge of cause and effect relationships in the world. We should celebrate this fact and be willing to stand behind it.

  11. 11
    scordova says:

    . (In fact maybe the entire example isn’t science. Isn’t that getting into ‘that’s math, not science’ concerns?)

    I think the coin thing is science because it lends it self to:
    1. Observation
    2. Hypothesis
    3. Testing

    We can run experiments to test the claims of expected outcomes. Thus it qualifies as science since there is opportunity to refute or affirm a hypothesis that was created through math. No critic has yet said, “that isn’t science.”

    Uncertainty is a notion that is well accepted in science. When uncertainty is maximized (like say shaking fair coins vigorously), almost magically, we can also EXPECT the coins will be about 50% heads, not 100% heads. So it is understood in science literature that there are chance processes. They may use phrases like “expectation of a random process”, but it is really a formalism for every day intuition about “chance”.

    I could also scientifically claim the expected outcome of a dead chemical soup will be a dead chemical soup a hundred years later, or I could say, scientifically speaking a dead dog stays a dead dog, or Humpty Dumpty (the cell) won’t be put back together after it has been hacked to death. These are also purely scientific and theoretical statements I consider as the “D” part of ID that are unassailable as science. They make testable predictions.

    FWIW, I hope you see, even these innocent scientific questions didn’t go down well with certain critics:

    Do Dead Dogs Stay Dead Dogs

    Vernal Equinox sees outbreak of DDS

    Statistics Question for Nick Matzke

  12. 12
    nullasalus says:

    Scordova,

    Uncertainty is a notion that is well accepted in science. When uncertainty is maximized (like say shaking fair coins vigorously), almost magically, we can also EXPECT the coins will be about 50% heads, not 100% heads. So it is understood in science literature that there are chance processes. They may use phrases like “expectation of a random process”, but it is really a formalism for every day intuition about “chance”.

    Sure, I grant there is uncertainty on our parts with regards to outcomes, there are patterns (law of big numbers), and so on. I’m not sure you’re even denying this, but none of these things entail or even imply ‘lack of guidance/design/etc’ in the way I’m talking about. If I throw dice, -I- may not be guiding, designing, foreknowing, etc the outcome, but my not guidance that we’re worrying about.

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    I don’t hesitate to support intramural disagreements among UD contributors nor do I expect all ID supporters to agree on every issue. Far from it.

    Still, it seems evident to me that anyone who claims that ID is not science should [a] define the standard that he claims is not being met and/or [b] address the arguments of ID authors who have provided good reasons for saying that ID’s paradigms are, indeed, faithful to the scientific method.

    With respect to [a], I have, in the past, asked both critics on this site (Null and Sal) to provide their definition of science or its method. As far as I know, neither have responded. How can one reasonably say that ID does not meet a standard that has not been made explicit or even identified?

    With respect to [b], Stephen Meyer has provided a check list of reasons to justify the proposition that ID is, indeed, science:

    *ID is based on empirical evidence

    *ID uses established scientific methods

    *ID is a testable theory

    *ID exemplifies historical scientific reasoning

    *ID addresses a specific question in evolutionary biology

    *ID is supported by peer-review scientific literature

    To nullasalus and Sal:

    Please provide both your definition of science and your reasons for rejecting ID’s justification for identifying itself that way. I believe these are both fair questions.

  14. 14
    nullasalus says:

    StephenB,

    Please provide both your definition of science and your reasons for rejecting ID’s justification for identifying itself that way. I believe these are both fair questions.

    Before we do this, I have to ask you – are you sure you want to? I didn’t write a post criticizing ID’s claim as being science. My claim was that a very common claim – ‘science shows that evolution is unguided, that evolution has no purpose, etc’ – is false, and I gave my challenge (give me the experiment, the test, the peer reviewed research, that determines this.)

    In principle, it looks like an ID proponent could conceivably back my view as far as it goes and still maintain ID is science. Which is fine, but then the argument about ID’s status as science is another topic altogether. Sal mentioned my ID views in his comment, but that’s not my focus here.

    I’m reluctant to go off-topic, especially this early, unless you think it’s truly necessary. Let’s say I’m right – science hasn’t established that evolutionary processes or much anything else are ‘unguided’ in the sense I’m talking about, nor can it. What threat does this pose to ID? Are you seeing something I don’t?

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    Null,

    OK. My definitional question was really more for Sal anyway. We can put if off for another day. (Your comment that it “sure ain’t science,” was, in context, a kind of side story to the main theme.)

    On the question of ID and unguided evolution, I would say this.

    First, I know that you are aware of, and sensitive to, the proposition that Darwinists equivocate on the subject, arguing on behalf of unguided evolution while providing evidence only for common descent. So far, so good.

    Moving on to the relevant point, I would say that ID argues for nature’s design in the same spirit that archeology argues for design in an ancient hunter’s spear. In making these arguments, both scientists (there’s that word again) are arguing for a guided process. To recognize that the spear (or, for that matter, a sand castle) was the product of design (a guided process) and not the product of wind, air, and erosion (an unguided process) is, in my judgment, manifestly clear in its implications. So it is with the design in a DNA molecule. If design is real (ID), it must be, by definition a guided process; If design is illusory (Darwinism), it is, by definition, not a guided process.

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    Wikipedia:

    Erosion is the process by which soil and rock are removed from the Earth’s surface by exogenic processes such as wind or water flow, and then transported and deposited in other locations.

    Not science:

    Erosion is the process by which soil and rock are removed from the Earth’s surface by unguided exogenic processes such as wind or water flow, and then transported and deposited in other locations.

    Agreed. Science lacks the tools to establish that a process is unguided.

    It’s close cousin is arguing that design is an illusion. How you they know?

    Similar is the claim that this or that process is natural where natural merely serves as a synonym for unguided.

    In my opinion, nature is un-natural.

  17. 17
    Querius says:

    Nicely stated, Mung.

    -Q

  18. 18
    CuriousCat says:

    In my opinion, nature is un-natural.

    Well said!

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    Atheists/Materialists have not demonstrated any part of nature is ‘unguided’.

    “God is not a “God of the gaps”, he is God of the whole show.”
    John Lennox

    That is to say the findings of modern science have not given any comfort to Atheists/Materialists in their notion that that universe exists apart from God’s permissive will, but the findings of modern science have given great comfort to the Theist in his belief that God created and sustains the universe in its continued existence. Here are a few instances that are very antagonistic to Materialistic/Atheistic in their belief that the universe exists apart from God:

    1. Naturalism/Materialism predicted time-space energy-matter always existed. Whereas Theism predicted time-space energy-matter were created. Big Bang cosmology now strongly indicates that time-space energy-matter had a sudden creation event approximately 14 billion years ago.

    2. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the universe is a self sustaining system that is not dependent on anything else for its continued existence. Theism predicted that God upholds this universe in its continued existence. Breakthroughs in quantum mechanics reveal that this universe is dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause for its continued existence.

    3. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that consciousness is a ‘emergent property’ of material reality and thus should have no particularly special position within material reality. Theism predicts consciousness precedes material reality and therefore, on that presupposition, consciousness should have a ‘special’ position within material reality. Quantum Mechanics reveals that consciousness has a special, even a central, position within material reality. –

    4. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe. Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time. – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9) –

    5. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and that life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind. Scientists find the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Moreover it is found, when scrutinizing the details of chemistry, that not only is the universe fine-tuned for carbon based life, but is specifically fine-tuned for life like human life (M. Denton).-

    6. Naturalism/Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe. Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex organic life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe (G. Gonzalez). –

    So with such overwhelming ‘scientific’ evidence like the preceding supporting basic Theistic presuppositions that God created and sustains the universe, how are atheists able to hoodwink so many people into believing that some portions of the universe are ‘unguided’ by God? Well it turns out that it emotion plays a big part in the ruse. Part of the ruse is exposed here:

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin – February 27, 2012
    Excerpt: While they (Darwinian Biologists) pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’”
    Wolfgang Pauli –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....56771.html

    Talbott humorously reflects on the awkward situation between Atheists and Theists here:

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....randomness

    Basically, if the word ‘random’ were left in this fuzzy, undefined, state one could very well argue as Theistic Evolutionists argue, and as even Alvin Plantinga himself has argued at the 8:15 minute mark of this following video,,

    How can an Immaterial God Interact with the Physical Universe? (Alvin Plantinga) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kfzD3ofUb4

    ,,, that each random/chance event that occurs in the universe could be considered a ‘miracle’ of God. And thus, I guess the Theistic Evolutionists would contend, God could guide evolution through what seem to us to be ‘random’ events. And due to the synonymous nature between the two words, random and miracle, in this ‘fuzzy’, undefined, state, this argument that random events can be considered ‘miraculous’, while certainly true in the overall scientific sense (as demonstrated in my 6 points above), would none-the-less concede the ’emotional high ground’ to the atheists since, by and large, the word random, as it is defined in popular imagination, is not associated with the word miraculous at all but the word random is most strongly associated with unpleasant ‘random’ events. Associated with ‘natural’ disasters. Events such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and other such horrific ‘natural’ catastrophes. Catastrophic events that many people, even hardcore Christian Theists, are unable to easily associate an all-loving God with (i.e. the problem of evil, Theodicy).

    Is God Good? (Free will and the problem of evil) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

    If God, Why Evil? (1 of 4) – Norm Geisler – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSTzJ-kbfkc

    Bad Stuff Everywhere – Pastor Vern Streeter – video
    http://www.harvestchurch.tv/se.....-room/#661

    Moreover, Darwinists, have taken full advantage of the popular definition of the word ‘random event’, (as in the general tendency to want to separate tragic events from God’s good and perfect will), to ’emotionally’ mislead the public that a ‘random’ event is truly separated from God’s divine actions in the universe. Charles Darwin himself used this ’emotional ploy’ in ‘Origin of Species’:

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    Excerpt:
    9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.

    10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    And to this day, as Dr. Hunter repeatedly points out for us, Darwinists continue to use this theologically based ‘argument from evil’ to falsely give the impression, through emotion, that God somehow is not also sovereign over a tragic events in the universe.

    “The strength of materialism is that it obviates the problem of evil altogether. God need not be reconciled with evil, because neither exists. Therefore the problem of evil is no problem at all.,,, And of course since there is no evil, the materialist must, ironically, not use evil to justify atheism. The problem of evil presupposes the existence of an objective evil-the very thing the materialist seems to deny. The argument (from Theodicy) that led to materialism is exhausted just when it is needed most. In other words, the problem of evil is only generated by the prior claims that evil exists. One cannot then conclude, with Dawkins, that there is ‘no evil and no good’ in the universe.,,,
    The fact that evolution’s acceptance hinges on a theological position would, for many, be enough to expel it from science. But evolution’s reliance on metaphysics is not its worst failing. Evolution’s real problem is not its metaphysics but its denial of its metaphysics.,,,
    Cornelius Hunter – Darwin’s God – pg. 154 & 159

    the Debate Within the Debate – April 12, 2014 by Cornelius Hunter
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-496076

    Thus, the scienfic evidence itself shows us that we live in a thoroughly Theistic universe, whilst Darwinism shows us that people have a hard time making judgments about science apart from emotion.

    Verse and Music

    Romans 8:20-21
    For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Phillips, Craig & Dean – When The Stars Burn Down – Worship Video with lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPuxnQ_vZqY

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Supplemental notes:

    Shining Light on Dark Energy – October 21, 2012
    Excerpt: It (Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,
    Even gravity, Vedral argued, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy. ,,,
    The principles of thermodynamics are at their roots all to do with information theory. Information theory is simply an embodiment of how we interact with the universe —,,,
    http://crev.info/2012/10/shini.....rk-energy/

    That consciousness did not ‘emerge’ from the entropic events of the universe, but is ‘something’ that God added later, is perhaps most easily demonstrated by the ‘Quantum Zeno effect:

    Quantum Zeno effect
    Excerpt: The quantum Zeno effect is,,, an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Zeno_effect

    i.e. Why in blue blazes should conscious observation put a freeze on entropic decay, unless consciousness was/is more foundational to reality than entropy is? And seeing that entropy is VERY foundational to explaining events within space-time, I think the implications are fairly obvious that consciousness precedes the 1 in 10^10^123 entropy of the universe!

    David Chalmers on the ‘Hard Problem’ of Consciousness – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmZaA_xoJiM

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    Unguided evolution cannot be modelled- what would they do take Dawkins’ “weasel” remove the target phrase from the selection coeffiecient, run the rpogram and see if it hits the target phrase? Unguided evolution doesn’t offer us any predictions and is useless as a research heuristic.

  22. 22
    phoodoo says:

    Joe,

    To be fair, I think a more realistic task for an unguided model for evolution would be to remove the need for a sentence about a weasel, and instead allow the program to come up with ANY meaningful set of words that is longer than say a paragraph.

    Since what evolutionists claim is that there is no goal before the fact (making any particular sentence) but rather after the fact the sentence makes sense, I think they should try for that goal. Let their unguided programs keep some letters, throw out others, all the while seeing if it adds up to a meaningful sentence. Then try it for a paragraph, and then a whole page. Then four pages. At this point see if your computer program can make all the pages add up to a consolidated collection of even one coherent idea. Because after all, the only goal is a result which is intelligent.

    They wouldn’t get past one simple paragraph, when to mimic anything close to the observation of intelligence we see on earth, you need to at least come up with a few sets of Encyclopedia Britannicas by keeping some good letters and getting rid of some bad ones.

    Algorithms which claim to mimic evolution are con games by definition. In fact, here’s the only computer model for evolution I want to see: Make a program which has as its goal nothing, other than just to make something meaningless, then copy it poorly every once in a while. After a zillion copies that are meaningless and imperfect, see if you get anything meaningful. I would like to see that computer model over at the Skeptical Zone.

  23. 23
    scordova says:

    And yet Sal, presumably, accepts that forensic science is science, that SETI is a scientific endeavor, and so forth.

    You forgot to mention creation science. 🙂

    The reason I don’t see a contradiction is creationism is divided into two disciplines:

    1. creation science
    2. creation theology

    The science side doesn’t claim to prove God exists or that
    God is the Designer, that is more of a theological view.

    I could say “ID science” is science in the sense we divide the ID claim into:

    1. ID science = science claims supporting ID
    2. ID inferences = inferences from ID science

    A science claim for example is the Humpty Dumpty claim. That is science. No question.

    I don’t recall that I’ve said where Forensic Science is science and when it is not. It’s science to the extent it does science, same with ID and creationism. Were the jurors in the Jody Arias trial doing science since forensics were used?

    The more I study evolutionary theory, the more I’m inclined to assert the bulk of it is not science, and part of that is for the reasons Null has posted.

    The main reason I raise the issue is I think the claim “ID is science” weakens the effectiveness of promoting ID. Critical analysis of evolutionary theory is most certainly science. I feel comfortable arguing that and saying “D” of ID is science. I could say, “ID science is science”, but that doesn’t mean much to most, but it is a statement I could endorse. In contrast, “creation science” is an important distinction to some creationists.

    Going back on topic:

    FWIW, I agree with Null, claims of unguided are not formally provable, therefore not science. We can only say, “not recognized as guided”. That is scientific, like saying “that word doesn’t appear in our dictionary”. Just because a word doesn’t exist in a given dictionary doesn’t mean it is not a word. Just because guidance isn’t recognized doesn’t mean something isn’t guided.

    We can only scientifically say “we don’t recognize guidance” (no recognizable specification), but we cannot make a blanket statement “there is no guidance” — such an assertion is not scientific.

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    nullasalus:

    “Let’s say I’m right – science hasn’t established that evolutionary processes or much anything else are ‘unguided’ in the sense I’m talking about, nor can it. What threat does this pose to ID? Are you seeing something I don’t?”

    I agree with the first part of your theme and the arguments of everyone above to the effect that science cannot demonstrate unguidedness (because it cannot demonstrate that design is an illusion).

    However, I also hold (contrary to the second part of your theme) that science can, indeed, demonstrate guidedness by demonstrating design. I would argue that a designed artifact or organism can only result from a guided process and nothing else.

    I conclude then that the first part of your theme is no threat to ID, but the second part of your theme is a threat to ID. To say that science cannot demonstrate guidedness is tantamount to ruling out the possibility that science can demonstrate design, which logically depends on a guided process. What I disagree with, therefore, is the proposition that science does not have the power to demonstrate (in probabalistic terms) either guidedness or unguidedness.

  25. 25
    nullasalus says:

    Sal,

    FWIW, I agree with Null, claims of unguided are not formally provable, therefore not science. We can only say, “not recognized as guided”. That is scientific, like saying “that word doesn’t appear in our dictionary”.

    Sure, with the caveat that ‘not recognized as unguided’ has, as far as science goes, equal legitimacy. And when people like Coyne talk about how ‘science shows evolution is unguided’, he’s abusing science.

    StephenB,

    What I disagree with, therefore, is the proposition that science does not have the power to demonstrate (in probabalistic terms) either guidedness or unguidedness.

    I think it’s less about power and more about category. I think it’s within the power of thinking humans to reasonably determine that computers are, in fact, made by designers. That this is science is where I start to question things.

    That’s another issue which puts me against some people in this thread. One response I’ve seen glimmers of here is ‘If you say these arguments are philosophical or metaphysical or just plain reasoning, not science, you won’t convince anyone in the modern climate because all they care about is science.’ I think that’s true to a point, but it also indicates a real longstanding problem – people have a warped view of science and think it shows what it not only doesn’t, but can’t show.

  26. 26
    Box says:

    nullasalus, can you provide a definition of science, one or two examples of valid scientific hypotheses and maybe also an outline of the scope of science?

  27. 27
    StephenB says:

    Null

    I think it’s less about power and more about category. I think it’s within the power of thinking humans to reasonably determine that computers are, in fact, made by designers. That this is science is where I start to question things.

    We are back to definitions and the problem of demarcation. Is ID science? You wanted to hold that discussion for another time, so I honored your wishes. Nevertheless, as is clear from your above statement, we can’t get away from it. It is the first thing that must be settled and until it is settled, every other claim is premature.

    You don’t think that ID is science and Sal equivocates so that he can have it both ways. At this point, all I can do is hearken back to my earlier points, albeit using different words:

    [a] When one says that ID is not science, he is also saying, by implication, that he knows what science is and that he can differentiate between its methods and those of philosophy or theology (or math).

    [b] To say that ID is not science is to reject (without a rationale) ID’s six explicitly-stated reasons for claiming to be so.

    Let me try to set the example:

    “science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe.

    scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

    (I am defining ID by its paradigms [“irreducible complexity,” “specified complexity,” “counterflow” and so on. Again, these kinds of specifications are critical in this kind of discussion)

    It should be evident that I am not referring to philosophical methods (or, for that matter, methods for biblical interpretation). Based on my definition, (and ID’s six standards alluded to earlier) I can easily argue that ID is science. ID’s inference to design is neither Creationism’s faith in a cheap tuxedo (theology) or Aristotle’s cosmology in a cheap tuxedo (philosophy).

    Perhaps you would disagree, but at least we would have a rational basis for our dispute. As it is, it seems to me that you and Sal are simply using arbitrarily conceived standards to support your claims and critiques.

  28. 28
    PaV says:

    So, if science were able to show that selection processes, mutation processes, even radioactive processes, etc were unguided, what I’d expect to see is the same for any other supposedly scientific claim: experiments, peer-reviewed research.

    Is anthropology a science? What ‘experiments’ do they perform?

    Is psychology a science? What ‘experiments’ do they perform?

    Mostly what both of these “sciences” do is catalog ‘facts’.

    Meyers’ claim when it comes to ID is based on ID’s power to ‘explain.’

    Add to this what you’re describing as a ‘toss-up’ between the Darwinists’ claim of evolution being the result of “unguided processes” and the IDists’ claim of “intelligent design,” then, given that we have a standoff, I would think that the ‘science’ (is that what ‘science’ does: explain why things are the way they are? Is that the definition we should be using here?) that gives the ‘better explanations’ is superior?

    Then how is it that the recognized ‘science’, i.e., Darwinism in general, gets it ‘wrong’, and the supposed ‘non-science’ gets it ‘right’ when it comes to predictions, but they end up being able to keep the appellation ‘science’ but ID is not able to?
    ***********************************

    There’s more here to consider, though.

    Most ‘sciences’ have ‘laws.’ Dembski has his law about the conservation of information. Behe has his First Rule of Adaptation. So, in some small measure a start has been made by ID theorists. Will this continue on into the future? My hunch is that it will. Will it develop into a full-blown accredited form of ‘science’?

    I think it all depends. Is the only reason that ID is NOT considered a ‘science’ because there are religious and philosophical overtones to it? Is that right or just?

    *******************************************

    Is the only reason that Darwinism is accepted as ‘science’ because of those very same ‘overtones’, in this case atheistic—Richard Dawkins, e.g. Is that right or just?

    **************************************

    Another point to consider:

    The Galapagos Finches. The Grants have just come out and said that their findings about the beak sizes of these finches has been thrown into question because of hybridization.

    Well, this was one of Darwinism’s ’cause celebre.’ An “experiment” demonstrating evolution. And now they have to backtrack.

    ***************************************

    Finally, let’s look at the issue that you might be dancing around: can we ‘prove’ that God ‘designed’ life?

    I think the answer to that, ultimately, is, “No, we can’t.” But that’s the way God wants it. We come to Him through faith, not strictly reason. It has to be reason AND faith.

    ***************************************

    I’ll end with this simple consideration:

    Nobel Prizes are in the offing. The Higgs Boson has been discovered.

    Well, can you ‘prove’ that a Higg’s boson exists, that it’s been discovered? Think about this.

    The ‘experiments’ that were run at the LHC demonstrate that there are, among the gazillions of collisions that occurred there, some observations that may, or may not, be due to ‘chance.’ What is given to us as a ‘scientific proof’ of the Higg’s Boson appearance is a set of events that are termed 5-sigma events. The interpretation of such an event simply means that the chance of them having occurred by chance is less than one in a hundred thousand, or something like that (the experts can give us the actual figure).

    Yet ID says that the likelihood of cytochrome c having come about by chance processes is 20^110. Seems to me that this is a bit higher than one in a hundred thousand.

    Fred Hoyle, an atheist astrophysicist, gives us this calculation of the odds for cytochrome c as proof positive that Darwinian evolution is a bunch of hocum.

    So why is Darwinism a ‘science’ and ID is not?

    IOW, Nobel Prizes are being passed out because scientists “accept” (the kind of ‘acceptance’ needed to find your way into a “peer-reviewed” journal) the LHC observations with a 5-sigma confidence level, and ID calculations are ‘dismissed’ which have a 100,000-sigma confidence level.

    ***************************************

    Where do I stand on all of this?

    First, I think that the human mind is completely capable of determining when ‘design’ has occurred. And I think it is completely capable of recognizing that the only known source of ‘design’ is intelligence.

    Second, I don’t think ID can, at this time at least, be considered to be a full-blown scientific project.

    And, third, I don’t think it will EVER be able to “prove” God’s existence, or even that God is the “intelligence” behind the obvious signs of “design.” We don’t have enough evidence now, and I don’t think we will ever have enough.

  29. 29
    nullasalus says:

    Nevertheless, as is clear from your above statement, we can’t get away from it.

    I sure can’t if people intend on bringing it up and asking me about it repeatedly in the thread. But ah well, this one’s not striking much interest anyway. You’d think pointing out that science is being abused and miscommunicated in fundamental ways by atheists and scientists, and has been for a tremendous amount of time – in fact, arguably this very abuse is what inspired the modern ID movement, as a reaction to it – would garner interest. Likely my fault in communicating it poorly.

    Now, my view of science is that it’s largely limited to predictive models about the mathematically tractable aspects of the world. The subjective – experiences, feelings, perceptions, plans, intelligence, thoughts – is largely walled off. And historically that was the case too, that whole division into the primary and secondary qualities, I think it was called. So yes, in response to what someone else said earlier, I’d happily bite the bullet and say SETI is not science, and that forensic science – insofar as it starts to talk about inferences about minds and decisions people make and plans, etc – is not science. (Not all of forensic science, in fact not even most of it as far as I know, deals with such inferences.)

    But let’s get to the heart of the matter, since we’re going off-topic anyway.

    Why in the world does this matter, Stephen? I talk about the validity of ID inferences, certainly of many ID criticisms (which aren’t ID-specific anyway) as science – I just don’t think they’re science. Of course, the reply is, ‘If it’s not science, people don’t care!’ Say that’s true. But that’s the problem to work on, then. That’s the problem plaguing us – this modern attitude where if something isn’t “science” then it’s not giving any conclusion worth heeding, there’s no reliable reason at work there, and thus that normal day to day people don’t have thoughts or arguments worth considering. Instead we should all bend knee to the scientists.

    And the ID response is, at least apparently and at times, that this is a GOOD thing and the only problem is no one’s bending knee to ID scientists too.

    If that’s the attitude, count me out. You shouldn’t be seeking to be part of the consensus of scientists. You should be seeking to remove unwarranted credibility from their collective reputations.

  30. 30
    scordova says:

    that he can have it both ways.

    You’re making stuff up about people’s motivation is tiresome. You do this a lot. You make up all sorts of labels about me which I never subscribed to.

    I don’t believe creationism on the whole is science, but the science parts of creationism that are science are science, we call that “creation science”.

    I’m ambivalent to call ID on the whole science, but the science part of ID is science, but we don’t really have a phrase “ID science” to demarcate the science parts of ID vs the parts of ID that might not comfortably fit some peoples’ views of what counts as science. But if there were such a phrase, I’d have no problem calling “ID science” science, whereas I do have problems calling “creationism” science.

    Finally, especially tiring is I held the title of scientist (junior scientist) before getting promoted to another job (senior engineer). I’ve had training in science disciplines under other scientists. As far as I can tell you focus philosophy and have yet to make much of any science post at UD.

    I don’t especially appreciate you trying to talk down to me about my supposed misunderstandings of what is and isn’t science and my motivations. How much time have you spent studying science experiments or being associated with science laboratories? I can say at least three or more years for me. How about you?

  31. 31
    Eric Anderson says:

    nullasalus:

    I think I understand your larger point. But to me it seems more of a semantic issue than a substantive one, at least in most contexts.

    Whenever anyone talks about a “process that is unguided” we could call them on the carpet, point out that they can’t know that it is unguided, give examples (including hypothetical ones) about this or that unidentified entity that could theoretically be guiding the process and so on. Logically, we would be right.

    But it wouldn’t move the conversation forward at all. Because the individual can then just add a qualifier and start over with making whatever point there were trying to make. Rather than talking about a “process that is unguided,” they can simply talk about a “process that appears unguided,” given our current state of knowledge.

    And, indeed, that is precisely what everyone means when they say something is unguided. So we’ve won on the technical point that, yes, something or someone could theoretically be guiding said process. But we haven’t gained any substantive ground in the discussion.

    Furthermore, as a genuine practical (and scientific) matter, we still need to be able to distinguish between different kinds of processes. We still need to distinguish between (i) processes that appear unguided, and (ii) processes that appear guided. And the simplest way to refer to them in normal conversation is “unguided” and “guided.”

    There could be a circumstance here or there in which it might be important to highlight the fact that a process which appears unguided might in fact be guided. But in the great majority of the cases, when a process appears unguided we are probably justified — if not strictly logically, then at least practically — proceeding according to appearance and assuming (unless and until we learn something to the contrary) that the process is in fact unguided.

  32. 32
    Mung says:

    Salvador:

    The reason I don’t see a contradiction is creationism is divided into two disciplines:

    1. creation science
    2. creation theology

    lol. Dr. Hunter’s maxim comes to mind.

    “How Religion Drives Science and Why it Matters”

  33. 33
    Mung says:

    nullasalus:

    You’d think pointing out that science is being abused and miscommunicated in fundamental ways by atheists and scientists, and has been for a tremendous amount of time – in fact, arguably this very abuse is what inspired the modern ID movement, as a reaction to it – would garner interest. Likely my fault in communicating it poorly.

    Nope. You communicated it just fine. I just think there’s not much disagreement about it here. 🙂

    But couldn’t someone come up with an operational definition of unguided and work from that and have it accepted as science? If not, why not?

  34. 34
    Mung says:

    nullasalus:

    If that’s the attitude, count me out. You shouldn’t be seeking to be part of the consensus of scientists. You should be seeking to remove unwarranted credibility from their collective reputations.

    Some nice food for thought there. Thank you.

    But many would probably argue that that approach is just playing right into their hands, to label religious believers as anti-science nutcases.

    So perhaps that’s too thin a line for many ID’ers to walk, or they don’t know how to begin.

    There are no doubt many issues of interest that could be raised where science has no answers, but those are often seen as “subjective,” as if subjective is a bad things and objective is a good thing.

    Which in itself is a value judgment, lol.

  35. 35
    nullasalus says:

    Eric,

    But it wouldn’t move the conversation forward at all. Because the individual can then just add a qualifier and start over with making whatever point there were trying to make. Rather than talking about a “process that is unguided,” they can simply talk about a “process that appears unguided,” given our current state of knowledge.

    Actually, that moves the conversation forward tremendously.

    You’ve established that science is dead silent – entirely silent – on guidance across the board, from evolution the weather to physics. The moment someone starts talking about ‘a process that appears unguided’, they’re making a subjective judgment call. There’s no ‘appears unguided to us given our current state of knowledge’, because ‘we’ disagree on that apparent guidance – and it’s going to be put in further relief when it’s pointed out that “knowledge” isn’t what’s operative here, but intuition, philosophy, and otherwise.

    Not science.

    And, indeed, that is precisely what everyone means when they say something is unguided. So we’ve won on the technical point that, yes, something or someone could theoretically be guiding said process. But we haven’t gained any substantive ground in the discussion.

    Yes, you have. There’s a reason why Jerry Coyne and others repeatedly and explicitly attempt to treat ‘lack of design’ as ‘something science has discovered/shown’. So no, it’s not precisely what everyone means when they say something is unguided. Many times, even often, they’re mistaken or not thinking things through.

    Furthermore, as a genuine practical (and scientific) matter, we still need to be able to distinguish between different kinds of processes. We still need to distinguish between (i) processes that appear unguided, and (ii) processes that appear guided. And the simplest way to refer to them in normal conversation is “unguided” and “guided.”

    No, we don’t. Not as a scientific matter, since guidance of the sort we’re discussing is irrelevant to the questions being asked. “Appearances” of this kind in either direction, in fact, are irrelevant to science. And we should be challenging that in normal conversation.

    But in the great majority of the cases, when a process appears unguided we are probably justified — if not strictly logically, then at least practically — proceeding according to appearance and assuming (unless and until we learn something to the contrary) that the process is in fact unguided.

    No, we’re not justified – and treating the subjective opining of scientists about the presence or lack of guidance re: science is not ‘acceptable shorthand’, but abuse of scientific authority and a misrepresentation of the data.

    What would be justify, in the great majority of cases, is recognizing that ‘unguidedness’ is not demonstrated by science – there’s no experiment, no research, no test for this. ‘Guided and unguided’ are irrelevant to science, outside of its purview. We don’t have guided processes, scientifically, or unguided processes. We just have processes, full stop. If we want talk about our subjective impressions, our intuitions, or our philosophical extrapolations, that’s fine.

    It’s just not science.

  36. 36
    Mung says:

    Salvador:

    I’m ambivalent to call ID on the whole science, but the science part of ID is science, but we don’t really have a phrase “ID science” to demarcate the science parts of ID vs the parts of ID that might not comfortably fit some peoples’ views of what counts as science.

    You’re saying we need an “ID Theology” category where you can put the “not science” portions of ID?

    Now here at UD we find the following:

    In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection

    So you disagree with the definition of ID we use here at UD?

    You think the broad definition is too narrow?

    Is it any wonder I don’t think you’re an Intelligent Design advocate, despite the pretense?

    The reason I don’t see a contradiction is creationism is divided into two disciplines:

    1. creation science
    2. creation theology

    What on earth is “creation theology”? Is it just code for a base literal hermeneutic?

  37. 37
    nullasalus says:

    Mung,

    But many would probably argue that that approach is just playing right into their hands, to label religious believers as anti-science nutcases.

    I think at this point it has been established that ‘anti-science nutcase’ is going to be the charge no matter what for anyone who’s not a devoted secularist. But at least the affirmation of the rights of individuals to look at evidence for themselves and decide what is or isn’t likely – and, at the same time, pointing out the abuses and misrepresentations of science as we encounter them – has some broad appeal.

    There are no doubt many issues of interest that could be raised where science has no answers, but those are often seen as “subjective,” as if subjective is a bad things and objective is a good thing.

    No doubt. But you know why so many people have that attitude? At least in my experience, it’s because they falsely believe that quite a lot of their views are objective rather than subjective – or they subconsciously exclude quite a lot of their views from that test.

    I can only report my experiences. When I point out what I’m talking about to many atheists – that all the talk of ‘unguided’ nature is not established by science, that there’s no experiment for it, no peer reviewed research out there establishing it and that if ever there were it would be trivial to dismantle – their response is, contra Eric, not to shrug with apathy. It’s to freak out a bit. They turn to quotes from atheist scientists (who, seemingly, are the only ones they ever read) affirming that this or that is unguided, purposeless… and freak out more when I point out that the subjective opinion of a science, detached from experiment and research, is of no more value than mine or anyone else’s. At least as far as science is concerned.

    Maybe that’s an approach to these conversations ID proponents should be considering: an appeal to the validity of individuals investigating questions for themselves and coming to their own conclusions about science and guidance and intelligence – as opposed to requiring them to have blind faith in the authority of scientists or the consensus of scientists.

  38. 38
    Mung says:

    Perhaps nullasalus does have point that is relevant to ID, rather than just a general point about science:

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

    Does ID grant that natural selection is an unguided process? Why? Is it because “natural” means “unguided”?

    Why grant that a process that retains the most fit and discards the least fit is unguided?

  39. 39
    Box says:

    nullasalus:

    ‘Guided and unguided’ are irrelevant to science, outside of its purview. We don’t have guided processes, scientifically, or unguided processes. We just have processes, full stop. If we want talk about our subjective impressions, our intuitions, or our philosophical extrapolations, that’s fine.

    It’s just not science.

    So there is no scientific way to determine that a Volvo xc90 came about by a guided process? That is outside of the purview of science?

  40. 40
    nullasalus says:

    Box,

    So there is no scientific way to determine that a Volvo xc90 came about by a guided process? That is outside of the purview of science?

    You can use science in your investigation of that question, but once you start talking about the mental aspects – intentions, thoughts, plans, etc – yep, you’re outside of science.

    This is what seems to throw people. Because what I just said – ‘science can’t determine whether a Volvo was created by an intelligent agent’ – for many people gets translated as ‘we can’t tell whether a Volvo was created by an intelligent agent, or even make a reasonable inference’. But I believe you can make that inference, you can discern that Volvos are made by factories, which in turn are made by humans, who are agents who think, plan, have wills, etc.

    It’s just not science. It’s reasoning, it’s philosophy, it’s intuition and thinking, and many times, it works.

    I determine that every comment in this thread so far was ultimately written by an intelligent agent. “Science” doesn’t show me this. I don’t need science here. In fact, science would be pretty useless in this specific context.

  41. 41
    Mung says:

    phoodoo:

    To be fair, I think a more realistic task for an unguided model for evolution would be to remove the need for a sentence about a weasel, and instead allow the program to come up with ANY meaningful set of words that is longer than say a paragraph.

    First the design skeptic will argue that the process is unguided even if there is a target, because it mimics natural selection, which is unguided.

    Then the question arises of how replacing a single target phrase with multiple different target phrases would transform the process into one that is unguided.

    Given a single target phrase, how does the algorithm know which of the candidate phrases to keep and which to discard? Put in different terms, upon what basis, and to what extent, is the candidate phrase “seeded” into the next generation?

    Given multiple target phrases, how does the algorithm know which of the candidate phrases to keep and which to discard? Upon what basis, and to what extent, are the candidate phrases “seeded” into the next generation?

    What’s the difference, really, if any?

  42. 42
    nullasalus says:

    PaV,

    Is anthropology a science? What ‘experiments’ do they perform?

    Is psychology a science? What ‘experiments’ do they perform?

    Mostly what both of these “sciences” do is catalog ‘facts’.

    Even among people who would consider those fields science, they are regarded as “soft science”. I’m willing to bite the bullet and say no, those fields are valuable, but (at least in large part) they’re not science. Is “political science” science? I mean, it has science right in its name. And yet, and yet…

    Add to this what you’re describing as a ‘toss-up’ between the Darwinists’ claim of evolution being the result of “unguided processes” and the IDists’ claim of “intelligent design,” then, given that we have a standoff, I would think that the ‘science’ (is that what ‘science’ does: explain why things are the way they are? Is that the definition we should be using here?) that gives the ‘better explanations’ is superior?

    Then how is it that the recognized ‘science’, i.e., Darwinism in general, gets it ‘wrong’, and the supposed ‘non-science’ gets it ‘right’ when it comes to predictions, but they end up being able to keep the appellation ‘science’ but ID is not able to?

    What I’m saying would actually rule out a fair chunk of “Darwinism” as non-science too. If you ruled as ‘non-science’ any claim that such and such evolutionary processes were carried out ultimately with no plan, no intention, and so on and so forth, you’d be taking out quite a chunk of modern claims about evolutionary theory.

    Yet ID says that the likelihood of cytochrome c having come about by chance processes is 20^110. Seems to me that this is a bit higher than one in a hundred thousand.

    Fred Hoyle, an atheist astrophysicist, gives us this calculation of the odds for cytochrome c as proof positive that Darwinian evolution is a bunch of hocum.

    So why is Darwinism a ‘science’ and ID is not?

    I have no problem calling criticisms like those scientific. Nor do I think that, say, Behe’s criticisms of Darwinism are non-scientific. My problem only comes in at the level of inferences of or against design and calling said inferences science.

  43. 43
    Eric Anderson says:

    nullasalas @40:

    More like:

    We can confirm that something was guided. That is the whole point of ID.

    What we cannot confirm is that something wasn’t guided. For two reasons: (i) it requires proving a negative, and (ii) there may be guidance that is currently undetectable to us.

    This is analogous to the general design inference methodology. Namely, we can confirm that some things are designed; however, we cannot conclusively determine that something was not designed.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    Sal

    You’re making stuff up about people’s motivation is tiresome. You do this a lot. You make up all sorts of labels about me which I never subscribed to.

    Your answer to the question about whether ID is science amounts to this: Well, yes and no. I would characterize that as an attempt to have it both ways. You may disagree with that characterization, but I certainly didn’t make up the ambivalent musings that prompted it. The fact is, you really cannot make up your mind if ID is science. How much information do you think you would need to come up with a decision?

    I don’t believe creationism on the whole is science, but the science parts of creationism that are science are science, we call that “creation science”.

    I don’t believe that creation science is science either. That is a strawman argument and a distraction.

    We are discussing [a] your definition of science (which you refuse to disclose), [b] ID’s definition of itself (which you discount), and ID’s account of why it is science (which you ignore). In pointing out these evasions, I am not “making up labels about you,” but I am pushing the envelope a bit so that you will respond. If you don’t know what science is, then you cannot possibly know which intellectual endeavors rise to that level. That should be obvious.

    I’m ambivalent to call ID on the whole science,

    We already know that. I am asking you why you are ambivalent to call ID (as a whole) science and you are not responding. Do you think that ID (as a whole) and its hypothesis about “certain features in nature” and “intelligent causes” are not properly articulated? Do you think these concepts are meaningless unless and until you break them up into “theories of design” vs. “theories of “intelligence.” Or are we all supposed to agree with the way you reframe ID’s definition of itself? The fact is that you have responded to none of my arguments. Not one.

    …”but the science part of ID is science, but we don’t really have a phrase “ID science” to demarcate the science parts of ID vs the parts of ID that might not comfortably fit some peoples’ views of what counts as science.”

    Some peoples views? We don’t even know your views about what counts as science or why. All we know is that you are ambivalent about it. In fact, almost everyone in the academy holds views about science and those views, typically defined as methodological naturalism, are not congenial with ID’s hypothesis. In point of fact, those views are not based on a sound philosophy of science. Does it bother you at all that this is the case? Is ID supposed to cater to this kind of nonsense or try to please those who subscribe to it? You appear to think so. Do you even know why ID claims to be a scientific enterprise? If you do, what are your arguments against those reasons?

    Finally, especially tiring is I held the title of scientist (junior scientist) before getting promoted to another job (senior engineer). I’ve had training in science disciplines under other scientists. As far as I can tell you focus philosophy and have yet to make much of any science post at UD.

    Sorry, but I don’t accept your argument from authority. You will have to make your case. (Just so that you will know, I have had sufficient training in both mathematics and science to hold up my technical end of whatever technical arguments that I make).

    With respect to the posts that I write, yes I often write about philosophy because the errors that ID’s critics make are, on the whole, errors in reasoning.

    I don’t especially appreciate you trying to talk down to me about my supposed misunderstandings of what is and isn’t science and my motivations.

    It’s all in your imagination. I am simply challenging your arguments and characterizing your non-responses.

  45. 45
    nullasalus says:

    A little aggressive in here for guys largely on the same side, isn’t it?

  46. 46
    Dionisio says:

    PaV @ 28

    Another point to consider:

    The Galapagos Finches. The Grants have just come out and said that their findings about the beak sizes of these finches has been thrown into question because of hybridization.

    Well, this was one of Darwinism’s ’cause celebre.’ An “experiment” demonstrating evolution. And now they have to backtrack.

    From a non-biologist engineering common sense point of view, the whole Galapagos finches story sounds like a joke. One has to have a prolific imagination to extrapolate an example of species adaptation and convert it into a grandiose theory of origin of species, without explaining how we got the finches to begin with. Really pathetic to see our gullible minds accepting such story without questioning it.

  47. 47
    Dionisio says:

    nullasalus @ 45

    A little aggressive in here for guys largely on the same side, isn’t it?

    Yes, at times it seems a little aggressive, but perhaps it’s just passion? 😉

  48. 48
    Dionisio says:

    nullasalus @ 45

    A little aggressive in here for guys largely on the same side, isn’t it?

    The more I read the passionate discussions y’all have in here, the more I realize how little I know 🙁

  49. 49
    Querius says:

    StephenB,

    Science is a structured intellectual and ethical discipline based on logic and performed by observation and measurement, and resulting in models of reality that are useful in predicting relationships and outcomes reliably. These models can be refined or replaced as necessary or as more data becomes available.

    The scientific method can be applied to data in disparate fields, including physics, learning theory, horse racing, engine design, radiometric dating, and so on.

    Darwinism and ID are each paradigms with implicit assumptions. The scientific method might be applied within each paradigm, or it might be replaced with speculative story telling, which in some cases seems to be due to ideological contamination.

    In addition, Science is in a continual process of change. Unfortunately, teachers and professors can become fossilized and dogmatic in what they consider The Truth. Science can never be sure of The Truth, but it is instead a series of approximations that increase in usefulness.

    To deny that ID is a valid scientific paradigm, is to deny on principle even the most miniscule possibility that in the billions of Earth-like planets in the universe, there might exist intelligent agents that designed life on Earth or that an extra-dimensional entity created everything.

    Pragmatically speaking, even without the existence of an intelligent agent, an ID paradigm seems to promote scientific progress better that a paradigm that assumes only random processes and events. For example, the assumption that most DNA is “junk” had the effect of delaying scientific progress, which is most likely considered not a good thing.

    -Q

  50. 50
    Eric Anderson says:

    Dionosio @46:

    One has to have a prolific imagination to extrapolate an example of species adaptation and convert it into a grandiose theory of origin of species, without explaining how we got the finches to begin with. Really pathetic to see our gullible minds accepting such story without questioning it.

    Unfortunately, there is a certain “logic” to it.

    To the committed materialist everything we see around us — from stars to planets, to bacteria, to humans — is the result of a long series of random changes adding up over long periods of time; it’s all part of the grand process of “evolution.” So when they see any empirical evidence for evolution, even in the most basic and limited sense like finch beaks or peppered moths, they think they have found evidence for “evolution.” And since “evolution” is, by definition, what produces everything, then they think they have found evidence for the whole kit and kaboodle. Any evidence of any change becomes evidence for the whole story.

    Of course, if one escapes from the intellectual trap of thinking that everything is the result of the grand evolutionary process, then one is free to consider other possibilities. Like the possibility that the minor temporary adaptations we see around us might not, in fact, lead to new species, families, genera and so on. That kind of logical possibility is closed to the materialist mind. The materialist is forced, by his a priori philosophical commitment, to believe that minor miniscule adaptations just must over time, lead to more significant changes . . . to big evolution, grand evolution.

    Philip Johnson did a fantastic job in one of his lectures of laying out this materialist mindset and how it colors everything the materialist sees.

  51. 51
    Mung says:

    nullasalus:

    A little aggressive in here for guys largely on the same side, isn’t it?

    Nope.

    There are no Intelligent Design arguments in favor of the “creation science” or “creation theology” assertions that life originated 6000 years ago, was wiped out in a global flood, and subsequently diversified by Darwinian means.

  52. 52
    nullasalus says:

    Mung,

    I’m not in the YEC camp, and never have been. But I hope you’re not saying that justifies getting worked up. What would be the point, on those terms alone?

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Querius:

    Science is a structured intellectual and ethical discipline based on logic and performed by observation and measurement, and resulting in models of reality that are useful in predicting relationships and outcomes reliably. These models can be refined or replaced as necessary or as more data becomes available.

    The scientific method can be applied to data in disparate fields, including physics, learning theory, horse racing, engine design, radiometric dating, and so on.

    Good. You have immersed yourself admirably into the deep roots of the subject matter. Based on your definition, it seems that one could make a reasoned judgment about whether or not a given intellectual enterprise rises to the level of science. It also provides a standard with which one can either agree or disagree, which is another way of saying that it discloses to the reader the assumptions that inform the argument. More than this cannot be asked. (Notice that our respective definitions are different but, in my judgment, compatible).

    Darwinism and ID are each paradigms with implicit assumptions. The scientific method might be applied within each paradigm, or it might be replaced with speculative story telling, which in some cases seems to be due to ideological contamination.

    I would say that ID’s main methodological approaches (“irreducible complexity,” “specified complexity,” “historical science,” “abductive reasoning,” “inference to the best explanation,” “cosmological fine-tuning,” “the anthropic principle,” and “counterflow” are all free of ideological contamination and consistent with the scientific method.

    Again, you have provided a standard on which a judgment can be made, which is the point at issue. In order for someone to claim that ID is not science (in this context), he must either challenge your definition of science, show that ID doesn’t really apply scientific methods, or support the claim that those methods are not free of ideological contamination. I don’t think that such a charge can reasonably be made.

    At the same time, I think it is easy to show that Darwinism is not free of ideological contamination because of its apriori commitment to methodological naturalism and its unwillingness to admit countervailing evidence. Thus, one could argue that Darwinism is only partly committed to the scientific method and follows it in a very selective way.

    In addition, Science is in a continual process of change. Unfortunately, teachers and professors can become fossilized and dogmatic in what they consider The Truth. Science can never be sure of The Truth, but it is instead a series of approximations that increase in usefulness.

    Agreed.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    Eric Anderson:

    We can confirm that something was guided. That is the whole point of ID.

    Right.

    What we cannot confirm is that something wasn’t guided. For two reasons: (i) it requires proving a negative, and (ii) there may be guidance that is currently undetectable to us.

    Right again. We can confirm guidedness beyond a reasonable doubt; we cannot confirm unguidedness at all.

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    nullasalus:

    I’m not in the YEC camp, and never have been. But I hope you’re not saying that justifies getting worked up. What would be the point, on those terms alone?

    I never thought you were. I apologize if anything I’ve written intimates otherwise.

    But there is at least one Young Earth Creationist who has been granted a platform for his views here at UD under the guise that he is an advocant of Intelligent Design, when nothing could be further from the truth.

  56. 56
    Box says:

    StephenB:

    We can confirm guidedness beyond a reasonable doubt; we cannot confirm unguidedness at all.

    Do you agree with Nullasalus #35 #40 that confirming and disconfirming guidedness are both outside the purview of science?

  57. 57
    Eric Anderson says:

    Box @56:

    It is most certainly possible to draw an inference to the best explanation, based on our understanding of cause and effect in the world and to, therefore, confirm guidedness. That is the whole point of the ID enterprise.

    If someone is saying we can’t conclude/confirm something unless we have (i) repeatable, empirical proof, or (ii) actual historical witness, then that is, frankly, unhelpful. Even if we grant it to be true, it is trivially true, everyone knows it, and it doesn’t help move things forward.

    Furthermore, if we are exercising hyperskepticism, one can certainly question even empirical proofs or actual witness of events. One could, for example, posit that the experiments were tampered with, that the witness was deceived, that some other mental state made us think we saw something that we didn’t, that we are just a brain in a jar in some lab and all reality is but an illusion, and so on. If the litmus test here is whether we can imagine some way in which X could be false, then nothing — nothing — can be considered true.

    But that isn’t the way science works; it isn’t the way the world works; it isn’t practical; it isn’t helpful.

    We have to trust our instruments. We have to trust our basic logic. We have to trust our ability to observe and understand the world around us.

    Thus, the only real substantive point seems to be that, given our instruments and our faculties, some things are more amenable to direct observation, confirmation and/or logical deduction than others. In contrast, some things require a reasonable inference; and we are perfectly justified in drawing reasonable inferences as long as they aren’t illogical and as long as they comport with our other experimental and observational evidence of how the world works.

    And based on our understanding of how the world works, we can, in some instances, draw a reasonable inference (“conclude” or “confirm,” if you will) that something was guided. In contrast, based on our understanding of how the world works, we cannot (at least not to the level of assurance we are trying to reach) confirm that anything was unguided.

    Confirming guided and confirming unguided are not parallel cases. There are good reasons for this, as I outlined in #43 above.

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    box

    Do you agree with Nullasalus #35 #40 that confirming and disconfirming guidedness are both outside the purview of science?

    I think Eric has explained it well @57. However, in the spirit of giving you a straight answer to a straight question, I have to say that I disagree with nullasalus. I think that only unguidedness is outside the purview of science.

    On the other hand, I do think nullasalus is being consistent insofar as he seems to dismiss the historical sciences and other related methodolgies as legitimate expressions of that genre. He hasn’t really given me his coordinates, but I infer from what he says that he accepts only the hard sciences as legitimate science.

    Eric, Querius (and yours truly) accept forensic science, SETI, paleontology and archeology as science for the same reasons that we accept ID as science. It appears that nullasalus does not. In order to avoid any further trouble, I will refrain from speculating on Sal’s position.

    In any case, we can take a simple example to make the point. Historical science (archeology, paleontology) can distinguish the designed artifacts found in ancient Pompei (intelligent cause) from the volcano that buried them (natural cause). The scientist knows that the artifacts can only be the result of a guided process. By definition, an artifact is designed with an end in mind. The scientist cannot know with the same degree of certainty that the activity of the volcano was not guided.

  59. 59
    Box says:

    Nullasalus,

    do I understand you correctly when I state that according to you science starts off with an “unscientific” hypothesis; unscientific because it is by definition loaded with philosophy, reasoning etc. Pure science is the attempt to test such a loaded hypothesis – the production of raw data by an experiment and or research. However any interpretation of this data is a step outside of science, since reasoning, logic and thinking kick in and those are not science. ?

    StephenB, thanks for your reply. I’m curious to find out how Nullasalus defines science and where he differs from your position.

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